Nation’s Top Security-Minded Universities and Colleges 2015
Campus Safety has become a top-ranking item on the list of priorities for students and parents deciding on a college or university
An increase in college and university campus shootings, sexual assaults and other crimes on college campuses in recent years has upped the demand for campus security. Establishing and maintaining a safe college or university campus environment entails a variety of elements to be effective on the large, high-traffic campuses of today’s institutions of higher learning.
Veristream, a leader in visitor management for college and universities, understands the highly unique security challenges colleges and university administrators face. Students, parents, and faculty demand safety, and expect an open and inclusive environment that promotes learning. Veristream provides strategies and technology designed to satisfy both demands, beginning with visitor management systems that offer scalable security that provide students and faculty freedom to navigate the campus quickly and easily, without sacrificing safety.
A list of the 23 top American college and university campuses that made safety a priority in 2015, compiled using information from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics / Integrated Post secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and College Navigator databases, seems to prove that the top tanking schools have adopted many of the same security measures, while a few offer one or two of their own unique strategies.
The biggest surprise came from the University of Mississippi Main Campus in Oxford, Mississippi (ranked #16 on the list) which reports having a one-dog dog canine unit housed within the campus police department, something the report called “somewhat unusual for a college police department.” The police dog is trained to detect narcotics, and to track and apprehend suspects involved in criminal activity.
All 23 schools provide a campus police security force, all offering a variety of services to students, faculty, staff and campus visitors. Personal protection equipment includes call boxes distributed liberally around campuses providing a direct line to campus security officers day and night, and campus-wide closed circuit television monitoring. Vehicle help services are offered on some campuses for people who have locked themselves out of their cars, have a flat tire or experience other circumstance that has them stranded and often alone in a parking garage or parking lot.
Most campus security officers have full authority to investigate any criminal complaints or accidents, and are trained in the use of emergency equipment such as defibrillators and other first-aid equipment.
Seminars and courses are a popular trend among campus safety offices, on topics ranging from preventing sexual assault to petit theft, armed robbery and vandalism. A few campuses offer seminars and workshops on procedures to follow if a potential shooter appears on campus, or if an active shooting breaks out. At least one school (#6, Arkansas State University) conducts seminars and distributes a video on actions to take if an active shooting takes place on campus.
Many campuses offer text and voice alerts to students, faculty and staff for emergency announcements, and round-the-clock campus-wide patrols by officers on foot, on bicycles and in patrol cars. On-campus escort services have become standard on most campuses, and are made available anywhere from 24/7, to dusk-to-dawn, to weeknights to ensure people get from one place to another safely. Outdoor siren systems are maintained on some campuses in the event of severe weather or building evacuations.
Access programs are in place on most of the campuses included in the report, which requires students, faculty and staff to have proper identification and/or an access system tech card to gain entry to any building or on-campus event.
A number of the campus police security offices maintain records of local sexual offenders, who are tracked closely if they enroll as students, become employed at the school, or volunteer on campus.
Silent witness programs are also trending on college campuses, allowing anyone who witnesses a crime to report it anonymously online through an encrypted server.
At least one school (#3 Erskine College, Due West, SC) reported establishing a victim assistance program for anyone who becomes a crime victim. Campus police assist victims with counseling, support and advice on navigating the legal process. Officers at a few schools reported working with the student services office in the event a missing person report is filed, and all missing persons reports are followed up with an ongoing investigation to ensure all facts are discovered.
Most campuses report having a no-tolerance alcohol and drug policy in place that is strictly enforced, as well as no-tolerance stalking policies—whether in person or online—that are also strictly enforced.